Nigeria: Amotekun - the Issues, the Politics

(file photo)
24 January 2020

Not many issues in Nigerian politics and social discourses are able to engage national attention for two weeks and more. Amotekun has done so and it is not about fizzling away.

Since the Southwest security outfit was launched on January 9 , it has seized the headlines in major newspapers in Nigeria. And it has generated lots of both serious and controversial conversations .

The notch of controversy got a little raised when the federal government through the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, responded to the south west initiative by declaring it as illegal. That declaration has not only drawn out the Yoruba elite, it has introduced politics into the mix.

The ringing question is why should Malami declare Amotekun illegal? Did he indeed have the right and powers to declare Amotekun illegal? Is he the court of law? Not even the president can declare it illegal. If Malami and co still believe in the rule of law, then they should realize that only the court of competent jurisdiction can truly declare Amotekun legal or illegal.

I had thought what should worry Malami and indeed the entire federal government is the prompt and provocation that gave birth to Amotekun.

Without much ado, it is clear that the resort to Amotekun is because government has failed in its primary duty to protect lives and property. Too many people have been killed and many more are being killed every blessed day, essentially because government has not lived up to the bill of protecting lives and property of Nigerians.

So, if the government has failed and every now and then wrings its hands in helplessness, should the people knowingly surrender themselves to be killed and maimed by the growing band of marauders in the land? God Forbid!

Where was law and legality when innocent Nigerians were being killed and maimed by bandits? The Adamawa State chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev Lawan Andimi, a captive of Boko Haram terror gang, was beheaded last Monday. We can no longer count the number of people and even soldiers that have been killed by Boko Haram. That is why it appears weird that despite the obvious inability of the nation's security apparatchik to rein in the terrorists, Mr President has resisted public pressure to change the security architecture in the country. The service chiefs have over-stayed. They have no new ideas of how to win the war against the terrorists. They should be shown the door.

So, if committing to save and protect their own people, since government is unable to do same, is considered an illegality by Malami, so be it.

Indeed, there is nowhere in the criminal code or Police Act that says the duty of securing lives and property is the exclusive preserve of the police. No where!

There are citizens' rights. In fact, the right to life and safety is paramount and it remains the raison d'etre of all other rights. What other right will be useful or necessary if the right to life is compromised?

The governors of the South west had simply resorted to self-help to protect their people. Nobody should blame them. A thousand Malamis cannot and should not stop them. If the government cannot protect the people, can't the people protect themselves?

Is it not even strange, if not curious, that in spite of the many cases of massacre, pogrom and lethal raid of communities across the country, no one, yes, no one has been arrested, prosecuted or jailed for the sundry heinous crimes against the rest of Nigerians?

Is it that the Fulani herdsmen who have been in the vanguard of the attacks, killings and abductions across the land enjoy unofficial immunity? Is it not clear that they are treated specially, preferentially and with kids' gloves?

They seem to be carrying on with the Paulean boast and confidence: "if the president be for us, who can be against us?"

If the state governors are addressed as the Chief Security Officers of their states (even though they do not control any lever of security agencies), does it not behold on them to devise ways and means of protecting their electorate, including even law-abiding non-indigenes? Is it mere official shenanigan to describe them as Chief Security Officers when they cannot secure their people? The governors of the South West region have taken a great and bold initiative in deciding to form Amotekun. Nigerians can only expect a replication across the land

If nothing else, the formation of Amotekun has pushed further the clamour for restructuring, as a major essence of federalism. To prove their seriousness, the six state governors have donated 20 Hilux vans each to kick start Amotekun, among other perks, here and there.

Already, recruitment and training of its personnel is already in progress.

The federal government has ben dilly-dallying on the issues of restructuring and state police. The South West governors have simply nudged the federal government from its slumber on the all-important subject of restructuring and security.

Now the bit that is even more disturbing is the rude and provocative comments from Miyetti Allah, the group whose members have been orchestrating the unrest and tension in Nigeria.

First, Miyetti Allah had arrogantly declared that for Yoruba people to launch Amotekun, they are no longer eligible for the nation's presidency in 2023.

Next, they said the launch portrays Yoruba people as "primitive". I cannot understand this arrogant posturing from a group of cattle breeders. Surely, because the federal government had chosen to look the away from the many atrocities of the body, it is now arrogating to itself strange and feathery powers. What is the business of cattle breeders in the politics of presidential succession? Who had even told them that it is now the turn of the Yorubas to produce the president in 2023? And who are they in the real scheme of things in Nigerian politics? Not only is it all raw rubbish, it is manifesting as a butterfly thinking itself a bird. Miyetti Allah should mind their cattle business and not dabble into the rather complex matrix of Nigerian politics .

They must not remind us that all animals are equal but some are more equal. Were it not so, Miyetti Allah, with all the insecurity and atrocities they have caused Nigerians, should have long been proscribed. Many ethno-centric groups proscribed by the federal government have not committed a quarter of the atrocities Miyetti Allah has caused and continue to cause in Nigeria.

We have not forgotten that it was essentially for them that the federal government had mulled the idea of RUGA Settlements.

Surely, this phase shall pass and Nigeria will reboot and reset its operational template, if you know what I mean. How can a league of roaming and largely homeless folks describe the Yoruba race as "primitive"? And no body in government has condemned such open provocation in the land.

Understandably, many Yoruba elite have spoken vehemently in support of the initiative. Even Bola Tinubu, the national leader of the APC who had kept silent for over two weeks, because of his perceived presidential ambition, broke his silence last Wednesday when he berated those who believe Amotekun will lead to national disintegration. He did not spare his own folksmen either for maintaining extreme viewpoints and stance.

The other area of concern is what many have perceived as bias on the part of the federal government which has allowed and tolerated Hisbah and Civilian JTF in the north but describes as illegal Amotekun in the South West.

Some have argued that while Hisbah is a product of Kano State House of Assembly legislation, and Civilian JTF is a child of circumstance in the North east region (because of the rampaging effect of Boko Haram terrorists), Amotekun does not have the backing of any law.

Yes, the various Houses of Assembly in the South West can go ahead to pass a law legitimizing the formation of the security outfit.

But all said, the other concern will be the issue of arming the Amotekun personnel. How will the governors source for arms, if their work is to be effectively done? I have heard of ideas of resorting to dane guns--the type local hunters use in killing grass cutters in the bush. I dare say that such weapons will not be able to confront the cache of sophisticated arms borne by both the Fulani herdsmen and other bandits in the land.

Critics have also raised concern about the capacity of the state governors to effectively sustain a funding regime for the security outfit. It is beyond the drama of donating 20 Hilux vans per state. If not well managed and supported, even the fuelling of the vans will become an issue.

Here are state governors battling to accept and commence the implementation of the minimum wage agreement, now to be further saddled with the onerous task of maintaining a militia. It is thus hoped that a well-laid out funding structure is designed to ensure that financial constraint does not eventually stifle and cripple the operations of Amotekun.

Finally, the hitherto held fears about state police as being susceptible to abuse by politicians, must be guarded against. Thankfully, it is a regional security outfit, not necessarily a state police. It is even more reassuring knowing that the South west region is governed by both the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The idea of reducing Amotekun to a political machine to crush opponents should therefore be verily far from its essence.

Protecting lives and property of all the people in the South west should be the sole motivation and reason for existence.

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